Essays from UCEMC’s 2021 Scholarship Winners
Electric Cooperatives – Building a Brighter Tennessee
By Katie Grandstaff – 2021 UCEMC Scholarship Winner
BOOM! CRACK! SWOOSH! BAM! These were the sounds I heard as a fierce storm rolled through, and all of a sudden, I sat in darkness! The storm had passed, but the wind had done a number on the telephone poles and the electrical lines. As I sat in the quiet darkness without air conditioning and no TV, I began to think, “What can I do without electricity?” I was so bored! It was only eight o’clock, so it was much too early to go to bed. So, I finally just sat down in the recliner and felt sorry for myself. The rain had started again, and the next thing I knew, I had drifted off to sleep and began dreaming about how it must have been before electricity. I found myself in the 1920s visiting with a rural family who lived before electrical cooperatives were formed to provide electricity to rural areas.
During my dream, I met a teenager named William. I had so many questions to ask him. My first question was, “How do you survive without electricity?” He began to explain, “We try to get everything done during daylight hours. During the nighttime hours, if the light is needed, we have to use oil lamps.” William then told me about his cousin, James, who livers in town. The town has electricity supplied by a privately-owned utility company, and a municipal utility company supplies another nearby town’s electricity. William said, “My cousin, James, is always talking about how amazing it is to be able to pull a string and turn on lights. I dream of the day that I can magically pull a string and brighten the room.”
I continued to ask him another question, “Why do you not have electricity out here in the4 country?” William explained to me, “No suppliers are willing to provide electricity to rural areas because it is not profitable.” His eyes lit up when he explained that he had heard about the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electric Administration. He excitedly said, “REA and TVA might bring electricity to the rural areas because the REA’s purpose was to loan money to rural areas to form non-profit cooperatives which would be owned by the people in the community it is supplying.” William wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but he was hopeful.
As we sat there and talked about life without electricity, his older sister, Helen, came into the room. She began to explain what she knew about the non-profit cooperatives. She began to explain what she had read in the newspaper about how the Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation would be formed. She said, “UCEMC would be based on seven principles. It would have a voluntary and open membership to everyone who needed it, and every member would be a part-owner with voting privileges.” William did not seem very interested in how the cooperative was going to start. He just wanted electricity in his house. Helen told us how it would not only provide electricity but support communities as well. William was beginning to run out of patience and said, “Enough already! I want to know when our house can be lit up at night like my cousin’s house in town.” Helen then described how UCEMC would train and educate members while working with other cooperatives to better serve their communities in many different ways. Helen said, “I want you to know the principles on which UCEMC would be built. Yes, UCEMC will provide you with electricity just like your cousin in the city, but it will do so much more to support and provide for the community.” At that point, William said, “Wait, Helen, wait, as usual, you are talking too much. All I really need is to be able to pull a string to brighten a room when it gets dark.” Then, he apologized to me for his sister talking too much. He laughed and said, “She has been reading too many science fiction books. She even believes that people would have a box in their homes one day to sit in front of and watch moving pictures. How crazy is that?!” I knew he was talking about television, but I also knew he could not believe something like that could exist, so I didn’t try to explain to him what it was.
Suddenly, I woke up because the electricity had popped back on and the room was so bright. How wonderful it was to hear the air conditioner running and the television coming alive. That evening made me realize how important electricity was in my life. I began to wonder what William would have thought about all of these advances due to electricity. My life brightened up just because the linemen at UCEMC repaired the lines, as I am sure William’s life would have been brighter to have been able to pull that string. William knew electricity could brighten up a room, but what he did not realize, it gives us a better, brighter life. UCEMC has and will continue “Building a Brighter Tennessee” throughout the years to come. Shine on UCEMC!
Building a Brighter Tennessee
By Katie Ash – 2021 UCEMC Scholarship Winner
A crisis was going on all over Tennessee. Many of its communities were losing their light due to some electricity-stealing villain. The communities needed someone’s help before all the light went out. The people put all their hope into a band of superheroes that have helped the world many times before.
Down at the superhero’s warehouse, they were getting word of this villain. They started making a plan to help the people of Tennessee before it was too late. All they needed was each other and teamwork to save the community. With all their qualities together, they could do it. Now, they just had to round up the troops.
Our first hero is Actively. He carries out the decision-making for the team. With his help, we will be able to save the citizens of Tennessee with his brilliant decisions and tactics. Actively will make a plan to defeat the villain. Next is Voluntary; he always wants to help whenever there is a crisis, and he will not back down from a challenge. Voluntary is always there when you need a helping hand and will offer everything he can to help with the problem.
Now, we have Equality. He keeps all of us working together and for a certain cause to save Tennessee from complete darkness. He will help us have this whole crisis under control fairly and impartially so everyone can be happy and be with light.
Here, we have Educationally. He will educate the public on how we will do our job to save the community. He will keep everyone calm and let them know what is going on, so there is no panic.
Lastly, we have Cooperatively. He is in charge of using the resources and tools we have available to save the day. He is very skilled in working with the people and the team to get what needs to be done.
We call our team of heroes the Electric Cooperatives. With all their hard work and skills put together, they could do anything. Now, they set out to face this villain. They keep getting alerts that he was moving fast, and the people of Tennessee started losing hope. Then, here comes our heroes to save the day.
Actively decided we would start returning and fixing the lines in places that were down, then they would stop him in his tracks. Voluntary was the first to jump in and get the lines fixed. While Equitably and Cooperatively worked to get the tools and everything needed to take this on. Educationally worked on how they were going to fix these lines and get Tennessee shining bright again.
They all worked together to fix all the lines and catch up to the electric-stealing villain. The heroes went through ten different communities before catching up with him. They saw him trying to tear another line down, but before he could, they stopped him. They asked him why he was doing all this and making the world dark. He replied, “Because in my community we had a terrible storm and all of our lines were knocked down,” he continued, “No one helped us to put them back up o we’ve been without light and electricity for weeks now.” The team told him they would help fix all their lines, and they would have everything back in no time, but he couldn’t keep tearing other communities’ lines down. He agreed, and the team got to work. All of Tennessee’s communities were soon up and running with electricity, and everyone was relieved. Tennessee was saved thanks to the Electric Cooperatives team.